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My youngest son, Amiri, grips the trophy recognizing him as the student with the most AR points for the entire 3rd grade at his school.

I will treasure this image for years to come. My husband and I are standing with our youngest son, Amiri, who took home the trophy for having the most Accelerated Reader points for the entire 3rd grade at this school.

It was a triumph for our family and, I pray, a sign of things to come for my son. That trophy, medal, and certificate means that we have, at least momentarily, defined the odds.

You see, in the nefarious school-to-prison pipeline, low reading scores in the 3rd grade identifies you as someone who is going to need a bed in a prison in 15 years. I’ve heard the superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools, the 4th largest school district in the nation, say this out of his mouth.

That trophy means that he is not in the count, for now.

For many, these statements may seem outrageous but for those of us with the privilege of raising black sons in America, you know that these are important things. Academic achievement, while not a panacea, is a coat of armor what will help my son to wage the war against stereotypes and defy racist notions about his value and his ability.
This trophy means a great deal. It was not easy to achieve. While my son has always been surrounded by books and literature — both of his parents are academics and writers — Amiri had not yet developed a passion for reading until this year. It took pleading, frequent meetings and emails with his teacher, regular visits to the library and our local Barnes & Noble, and lots of forced reading time at home. The magic bullet this year was the Geronimo Stilton series, which almost miraculously transformed Amiri from the kid who had to be told to read into the child who always had a book in his hand.

He asks to go to the bookstore more than he asks to go to the playground.

He gets more excited about the Miami International Book Fair than he does about Christmas.

All that said, there is nothing more gratifying that knowing that I’ve successfully planted a seed for reading in my son’s heart. May it forever bear fruit. – tbh